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A$AP Rocky

by Dan LaFave on January 17, 2013


A$AP Rocky’s debut mixtape in 2011 displayed such explosive promise that RCA records signed him to a $3 million recording contract. They didn’t overreact. A$AP’s first major-label effort, Long. Live. A$AP, is stacked with his signature charisma and the sort of subtle, sonic flourishes that make you curse your MacBook speakers.

Equally at ease dropping designer clothing and Nirvana references over ethereal synths (“Fashion Killa”) or slurring threats soaked in pitched-down cough syrup (“Goldie”), A$AP flashes a malleable, hypnotic delivery that never gets overshadowed by the varied production or stellar guest spots.

The Clams Casino-produced “LVL” features atmospheric, James Blake-like synths with thick bass and simple snare hits. The sparse percussion accentuates A$AP’s best vocal weapon, his ability to change the pace of his flow from conversational to relentlessly quick on a dime, and his delivery becomes the song’s rhythmic engine.

He assembles an ensemble cast of hip-hop’s up-and-comers for the standout track, “1 Train,” a lean, no-nonsense rhyming exhibition with no hook and some friendly competition (A$AP doesn’t give us couplets ending with vigilantee/missionary/pistols ready/cemetary/missionary when Kendrick Lamar isn’t around). Not even Skrillex can derail Long. Live. A$AP. Their unexpected, exuberant collaboration, “Wild for the Night,” includes some tasteful, Caribbean-flavored organ and one of A$AP’s most blazingly inspired verses.

Points could be deducted for the album’s lack of cohesiveness; there is no obvious overarching theme, lyrically or otherwise. The album is not greater than the sum of its parts, but it is hard to be too bothered by that when the parts are so damn exciting. This is a debut album full of accomplishment and promise and some room to grow. Considering the bona fide talent and sheer magnetism A$AP displays on Live. Love. A$AP, he seems to be a monster in the making.